A Child, Karl Barth, and Faith

When Jesus wants to feed 5,000 people the only one who seems to think this possible is a boy.  The disciples don’t think it’s possible.  A boy apparently does and offers his lunch to Jesus and the rest is history.

When asked by a reporter to summarize his extensive theological volumes the great 20th century theologian Karl Barth replied:  Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.

We are called to walk in childlike faith.  But that does not mean only ignorant people can follow Jesus Christ.  Smart people like Karl Barth can too.  But it does mean that no matter how smart you are it still requires simple faith to follow Jesus. 

 


Signs: Feeding 5,000 – For Small Groups

  1. What do you keep asking Jesus to do that hasn’t yet happened?  Is it possible that what you’re asking is not what Jesus wants?  Is it possible you should start asking Jesus:  “What do you want from me?”  Or do you just need to persist in asking
  2. Where in your life are you saying to Jesus:  that’s not gonna work?  You know what Jesus wants to do. You know what Jesus wants you to do.  But you just think:  that’s not gonna work. 
  3. When was the last time you saw a miraculous provision?

Sermon Recap: Signs – Feeding the 5,000

John 6: 1-15

Jesus turns lunch for one into lunch for 5,000. This is an exponential sign from an exponential savior.  Jesus is able to do more than we can imagine, faster than we can conceive.

In this story there are three reactions to this miraculous sign.

  1. The crowd reacts with: “Jesus, buddy, do for me.”  They want the miracle man to do their bidding. 
  2. The disciples react with:  “Jesus, teacher, that’s not gonna work.”  They don’t believe Jesus can do what he aims to do. 
  3. The boy reacts with:  “Jesus, Lord, here’s what I have.” It’s not very much. It’s not particularly good. It’s offered for what can only be described as a fool’s errand.  And yet in Jesus’ hands one boys lunch miraculously feeds 5,000 people.

Memoir

From Steve Bell.


I’ve recently finished reading Eugene Peterson’s memoir titled The Pastor.  Some may recognize Peterson as the author of The Message, his brilliant paraphrase of Scripture.

 

Peterson details his upbringing in a small Montana town, through church planting in Maryland, and finally as professor of theology at Regent College.  He recounts relevant periods of his life and the book is full of the stories of parishioners and people who were influential in unintended ways. Every sentence is rich with meaning and  Peterson is a master of language.  I read the book slowly for I knew the feast would end on the last page.

 

As we have replanted St Paul’s and recently affirmed our collective membership, a number of his observations stayed with me.

 

Early in the book he writes,

I didn’t know it at the time, but what I absorbed in my subconscious, which eventually surfaced years later, was a developing conviction that the most effective strategy for change, for revolution– at least on the large scale that the Kingdom of God involves– comes from a minority working from the margins.  I could not have articulated it then, but my seminary experience later germinated into the embrace of a vocational identity as necessarily minority, that a minority people working from the margins has the best chance of being a community capable of penetrating the noncommunity, the mob, the depersonalized, function defined crowd that is the sociological norm of America.

Peterson is not speaking of ethnic minority, but of everyday Christians living their life from wherever they are, to affect change for the Kingdom.

 

We can do this.  St Pauls is small but God seems predisposed to work with the weak and unnoticed.

 

And then we’ll have our own stories to tell.


Grace and Forgiveness on the Radio

From Jeff Liddle.

Listening to the sermon this past Sunday, on Jesus extending grace to a man who did not appreciate it, reminded me of something I heard sometime last year. I was listening to the radio, and Terri Gross of Fresh Air was interviewing someone who had been writing about some evangelical churches (the Vineyard movement I think). This writer had been attending some of the churches, and spending a lot of time with these Christians to find out how they live and what they believe.

One of the central tenets of the Christian faith, of course, is forgiveness. David Konstan, a professor of literature, and Hannah Arendt, a political theorist, have suggested that Jesus introduced the modern concept of forgiveness to the world. Before that, “help your friends and punish your enemies” was pretty much the rule (see John Ortberg’s Who is this Man? for more on that). These Christians that this writer was spending time with were really trying to live this out – trying to forgive people no matter what. Terri Gross found this somewhat surprising and offensive. She said something to the effect of, “what about rapists? What about murderers? Are we seriously supposed to forgive all of these people?” My first reaction was to be pleasantly surprised that someone was criticizing Christians for actually acting like Christians. Usually Christians are criticized for being too judgmental, too backward, or for being hypocrites (often true, but not as often as you probably think). So this was kind of refreshing. Beyond that, this really brought home the point that grace – real grace – is offensive. Grace is offensive to people with faith and to those without. Rapists, murderers, and child molesters – God can forgive them as easily as he can forgive me? Seriously? 

As Vince reminded us this past Sunday, it’s not fair. But that’s the point. Grace is undeserved and unmerited. No one is able to earn grace. This is how it’s possible for all people to be forgiven and to come to know God, no matter what they’ve done. Grace is the great equalizer. Kings and beggars, sinners and saints, scholars and the uneducated – all of the common distinctions we draw between people make no difference, as all are in need of grace. And while it can be difficult to accept grace being extended either for ourselves or for others, it is of course liberating once we do. We are free in grace, we know we are loved no matter what, and can let go of the idea that we have to (or can) earn it. We are also then free to love others as God does, without judgment, grateful for the grace that God has shown us and eager to try to extend some small part of that grace to others.